November 3, 2020/Media

MEMO: Senator Tillis Ends the Cycle Like He Started: Weak, Without a Backbone, and on Defense on the Issues that Matter

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Robert Howard, NCDP Senior Communications Advisor
DATE: November 3, 2020
SUBJECT: MEMO: Senator Tillis Ends the Cycle Like He Started: Weak, Without a Backbone, and on Defense on the Issues that Matter


With control of the U.S. Senate resting on North Carolina tonight, Senator Tillis is ending his political career having been exposed as a weak politician who repeatedly caved to corporate special interests and his party bosses, and is stuck playing defense over his career attacking North Carolinians’ health care.

Lack of Independence – & Spine – Define Tillis’ Reelection
In 2014, Thom Tillis described himself as someone who would be an “independent” senator who would “stand up to the president when he’s wrong and stand up to our leadership.” Six years later, he’s voted with his party 96 percent of the time and with the administration 99 percent of the time – and proven he’s not the independent voice North Carolinians want. What started with him caving on the President’s emergency declaration is ending with him standing by the President’s failed pandemic response –, Senator Tillis defined himself over the last two years as weak and willing to put himself before what’s best for the state.

Charlotte Observer: Editorial: Thom Tillis deserts himself for Trump

  • “Poor Thom Tillis. For a few shining days the Republican senator from North Carolina had a backbone. Then, in one crumbling moment Thursday afternoon, it went away.”

Fayetteville Observer: Editorial: Tillis did not stand up to Trump for state’s military funding

  • “Tillis meekly acquiesced in the money grab.”

Fayetteville Observer: Editorial: Tillis performs an Olympic gold flip-flop

  • “Demerit: For North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who gave us a flip-flop for the ages after boldly campaigning for a measure that would block President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, and then at the last moment falling in line with the rest of the Senate Republican Trump servants.”

News & Observer: ‘Rubber stamp’: Tillis, Cunningham trade barbs in last debate over lack of independence

  • “‘(Tillis) said any senator that would vote 95% of the time with a president is not moderate, is not bipartisan and that voting with the president 95% of the time is ground for firing,” Cunningham said. “Senator Tillis then went to Washington and has voted with this president 99% of the time. By his own standard, he should be fired.’”

Politico: Tillis scrambles, Cunningham lies low in closing days of N.C. Senate race

  • “Tillis also stood by Trump’s pandemic response. He did not criticize the president’s recent comments accusing health care workers of making money off Covid death totals when asked about the remark by a reporter… He said he agrees with the president’s continued insistence that the country is rounding the corner on the pandemic, even as cases, hospitalizations and deaths spike. And he defended Trump’s rallies amid concerns about the virus.”

Tillis Has Repeatedly Caved to Corporate Special Interests – Especially Big Pharma
Big corporate special interests have long had an ally in Senator Tillis, who as Speaker helped slash corporate taxes while cutting education funding, and in the Senate passed a massive tax giveaway to corporate interests. But it was his relationship with Big Pharma that helped define him as a stooge of wealthy special interests, raking in campaign cash while standing against efforts to lower drug costs – sometimes within just a few days of each other.

News & Observer: Fact check: Did Tillis work on behalf of drug and insurance companies? 

  • “Did Tillis take $1.4 million from the drug industry and insurance industry? Yes.”

WBTV: Tillis took pharmaceutical money within weeks of co-sponsoring new drug price bill

  • “Senator Thom Tillis accepted more than $20,000 in campaign contributions from political action committees tied to pharmaceutical companies within two weeks of sponsoring a bill related to drug prices in late 2019.”

PolitiFact: Progressive group highlights Trump, Tillis weakness on insulin price tags

  • “Trump and Tillis have voiced opposition to prominent bills that experts say could decrease the cost of insulin for a broad group of Americans.”

STAT News: In a pivotal race in North Carolina, Democrats try to paint the incumbent as ‘pharma’s favorite senator’

  • “In a brutal series of attack ads, Democrats have painted incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, as a pro-pharma shill, even calling him ‘pharma’s favorite senator.’ They’ve highlighted his status as a leading recipient of drug industry campaign cash and his recent opposition to a GOP-backed drug pricing bill”

Toxic Health Care Record Drags Tillis Down
Across his entire political career – from the legislature to the U.S. Senate – one thing has been consistent about Senator Tillis: he’s been on a crusade to attack the Affordable Care Act and gut pre-existing conditions protections. He blocked Medicaid expansion as Speaker and then bragged about it. He voted 15 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. Senate, calling it a “cancer” and his vote to end protections for pre-existing conditions “courageous.” He openly supports and voted in favor of his party’s anti-health care lawsuit. And he has no real plan to actually keep the protections afforded by the ACA intact if the law is overturned.

News & Observer: Fact check: Did Tillis work on behalf of drug and insurance companies? 

  • “Did Tillis vote against coverage for preexisting conditions? Yes…”

PolitiFact: Cunningham says Tills voted to ‘take away’ coverage for pre-existing conditions 

  • “It’s true that Tillis voted for a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a move that likely would have left Americans with pre-existing conditions vulnerable…It’s correct about Tillis’ vote and the fact that other Republican plans fall short of matching the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. We rate it Mostly True.”

WFMY: FACT CHECK: Senator Tillis did vote against protections for pre-existing conditions

  • “Thom Tillis did vote three times to overturn the Affordable Care Act …Cal Cuningham’s ad is telling the truth when it says Senator Tillis voted against protections for pre-existing conditions.”

News & Observer: In race vs. Tillis, Democrat Cunningham makes pitch for Medicaid expansion

  • “When Tillis was speaker of the House, Republicans passed a bill in 2013 prohibiting Medicaid expansion without action by the lawmakers. It also stopped the state from running its own health benefit exchange. Tillis has taken credit for being the one to stop Medicaid expansion in the state, both at the time and more recently.”

Bottom Line

This election is a referendum on Senator Tillis and Washington Republicans’ inability to govern the biggest issues of our lifetime. From fumbling the pandemic response and jeopardizing our health care to failing to stick up for North Carolina when it’s politically difficult, Senator Tillis has repeatedly shown he’s not the independent voice North Carolinians deserve, which is why Democrats are confident the voters will reject him tonight and send to the Senate a new, independent voice in Cal Cunningham.